Wednesday 12 May 2021
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A refugee crisis with no end in sight

  • Zambezi is going nowhere, says Govt
  • Denies plans to arrest refugee
  • Runaway secession plotters must face trial


“We would like to inform the world that (Caprivians) have the capacity to seek and find weapons of war. Furthermore, we can also choose violence like what many other liberation organisations did.”

That’s what a group of Namibian refugees who fled Namibia and found safety in Botswana told the Botswana government, Namibian government, United UNHCR, Southern African Development Community (SADC), Ditshwanelo Centre for Human Rights, Namibian Human Rights (Namirights) and Botswana Christian Council (BCC) in a dossier last month.

Today, their sentiment continues to be echoed in from the Dukwi refugee almost two decades after failing to separate the ‘Caprivi Strip’ from Namibia.

Government has however again reiterated that the separation of the ‘Caprivi Strip’ from Namibia is not up for discussion and warned that those who fled the country after failing to secede the strip must still face trial.

Civilians living at the Dukwi Camp in Botswana will not be arrested should they return to their native land, but those who fled to the neighbouring state after failing to secede the strip must come and face the law, said Home Affairs and Immigration Minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana.

“Obviously there are those who ran away from law enforcement agencies and those are the people that must face the law and they have to stand trial just like all the others who are now being prosecuted in the court of law, they are the ones making all these allegations,” she said.

In addition, Iivula-Ithana noted: “But the civilian population, the children who left Namibia at the age of one, two, three or five or even 10, how can a democratic government such as the one we have here condemn such children and call them military just for the purpose of arresting them? Arrest them on the account of what? What have they done?

When asked about the security threats posed by the refugees who have threatened to revolt in order to free their motherland, Caprivi Strip, Iivula-Ithana said her portfolio dictates that she handles only the civic affairs of the country.

Iivula-Ithana added that her ministry has over the years worked closely with the Ministry of Defence of Botswana which also responsible for refugees in that country and United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).  This, according to Iivula-Ithana, was done to ensure that the refugees are safely repatriated to Namibia.

On the refugees’ demands to make Caprivi an independent state, the Minister said: “We have been pronouncing ourselves that obviously we do not recognise the plan that they are making of Caprivi being a country on its own, the Namibian government has made it categorically clear.”

“We have been inviting those who want to return home voluntarily to do so. And as such, we have even budgeted money for the support as they come back home,” she briefly stated.

According to the minister, more than 1000 Namibian refugees have been received from Botswana over the years.

Last month, The Patriot reported that Namibian refugees – currently accommodated at the Dukwi Refugee Camp, some 100km northwest of Francistown – were threatening to revolt as they seek to liberate their motherland, Caprivi Strip in the Zambezi region into Botswana.

The Caprivians, as people from the Caprivi Strip are affectionately known, have been and are resisting voluntary repatriation to their native country, arguing that the Namibian government is planning to arrest them upon setting their feet in the country, something the Namibian government has denied.

“Obviously there are those refugees, who know within themselves that they committed a crime before they ran to Botswana. They participated in an uprising and therefore they fear that by coming back home, they may be arrested. And that is rightly so, but it is not everybody,” charged Iivula-Ithana.

Echoing the words of Iivula-Ithana, Zambezi regional governor Lawrence Sampofu who maintained that the “Caprivi Strip” was part and parcel of Namibia.

According to Sampofu, the dossier from the disgruntled refugees in Botswana had not reached his office yet and that he only learnt about the threats through media reports.

Despite this, Sampofu said: “If the refugees have return letters, they can do so. It their right to do so. But what I can say is that, Zambezi (formally Caprivi) region is part of Namibia.”

When asked whether it was indeed true that the Namibian government was plotting to arrest the refugees upon their return from Botswana, the Zambezi governor vehemently denied the existence of such an arrangement.

“It is not true. Even last Friday, we received four refugees from Dukwi. They are free to come back to Namibia. They are given that amnesty to come back.

And we don’t arrest anyone from Dukwi, this (Namibia) is their home, this is their country. And we are asking them to come back home,” he said.

To the contrary, the refugees are running out of patience, anger and fury is slowly but surely reaching a boiling point. They have threatened to resort to violence if the Namibian government does not accede to their demand of making Caprivi Strip an independent state.

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